CORK MINOR LADIES football boss Joe Carroll believes that scrapping the All-Ireland series at underage level for 2021 is ‘terribly disappointing’ and has called on the Ladies Gaelic Football Association [LGFA] to consider a U-turn.
LGFA top brass cancelled national underage inter-county competitions for 2021 last Friday, while the GAA pushes on with its equivalent.
This is the second year in-a-row this has occurred in ladies football. The LGFA have informed counties that provinces can organise a championship at these levels and that must be completed by the end of August.
“It’s very disappointing to hear the decision in the first place,” Carroll told The42 today.
“When you hear that the boys’ U17 competition from last year, 2020, is to be completed and the 2021 one will also be completed – the fixtures are made out for it – there seems to be one rule for the boys’ competitions and another rule for the girls’ competitions, that they’re not even being considered.
“It sounds to me as if it was a kind of a hasty decision: ‘Look, we can’t fit it in the calendar, so we won’t bother with it.’ From what I hear, I think the camogie are going to run with an All-Ireland series in the latter end of the year. That should be considered, any consideration at all.
We’re all looking for equality for the girls and it was good to hear yesterday that there was money coming through in that regard. But I think these kind of decisions put us back years.”
Carroll is in his fourth year involved in the Rebels minor management team, having taken the reins from John Cleary ahead of the 2020 season but is yet to oversee a game at the helm.
He says it’s especially grating given national inter-county underage GAA competitions are proceeding.
“Oh, absolutely. Because they have a lot more fixtures in the way than the LGFA have. I heard a figure quoted this morning; to run off the U14, U16 and U18 competitions, A, B and C, it would take 18 games in total. For all three. Not just one, for all three. That’s not a massive amount of games.
“Minor A, it’s only a semi-final and a final for whoever comes out of Munster, if it’s Cork, Kerry or Tipperary. Surely to God, with the pitches improving and everything, we can find a date in the calendar to play these games. It’s a matter of sitting down around the table and getting people to talk, put out the plan and look at it. Don’t be coming up negative and saying, ‘We can’t do it.’ It has to be done.”
“I was speaking to the Galway manager and the Kerry manager, who would be our biggest oppositions for the last few years, and we’re all for it and behind trying to get this competition played again,” he adds.
All countries are united together in this. I haven’t heard any county speaking against not playing. From that point of view, hopefully they will make the decision to come back and tell us that they have found some solution. Hopefully there will be a decision to play it.”
Carroll says “the vibes from Munster council seem to be very positive, that they are going to try and run it – sometime after the Leaving Cert,” adding, “At least that will be something, but at the same time, it knocks the gloss off it a small bit.”
He says that his players are frustrated and feeling let down, one story in particular springing to mind:
“I spoke to one girl that I just happened to meet. She said that her brother is involved in the Cork U17 team, he’s going out the door training and looking forward to trying to win a Munster championship with Cork, looking forward to playing in an All-Ireland series.
“But if she does win a Munster championship, she can’t play in an All-Ireland series and that’s terribly disappointing.
Having being involved with underage inter county teams this needs to be changed! Vital competitions for these girls. Equal treatment as the boys needed @LadiesFootball pic.twitter.com/YDdquhTH7Y
— Anne O'Grady (@Anne_O_G) May 10, 2021
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“For players of that age, they develop memories out of it that they never forget. Surely there can be a solution got that will solve this and put it back on the table for the LGFA.”
That this is such a pivotal developmental stage in players’ football journey is something that concerns Carroll even more, drop-off rates among teenage girls throwing up worrying figures. This lack of competition may now turn even more players away.
“That is the fear as well then if they don’t want play at inter-county level, especially at minor, that they drift away to other codes,” he concludes. “I have nothing against other codes, but they’ll drift away or we’ll lose them completely from our game.
“Even from a Cork point of view, a huge amount of [current senior inter-county] players have come through the minor ranks. Erika O’Shea was on our minor panel last year, played a starring role for Cork in the All-Ireland [senior] final just gone. Erika would be a very talented basketball player, for example, she could have drifted off to basketball, if she wasn’t involved in minor.
“We could all fully understand last year because numbers were high, but I think everyone’s keeping a positive vibe with Covid now that by August, September, we will be back to some kind of normality.”